By LINDA M. LINONIS
If the energy, determination and sincerity of participants in Sunday’s parade and rally for nonviolence downtown could magically eliminate destructive forces of all kinds, there would be peace in the Valley.
Just as the song with that line in it, peace promoters know the process begins with each individual. The youths to adults who made up the audience, whose goal is nonviolence, demonstrated strength in numbers.
According to Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, about 60 groups and more than 600 people took part in the parade and about 450 filed in to the 20 Federal Place building for a program.
Sponsors for the third annual parade and rally included Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, Youngstown State University Department of Diversity, Youngstown city schools and the Martin Luther King Planning Committee.
Sarina Chatman, a senior at Chaney High School and 2012 participant in Sojourn to the Past, led the program. She said Sojourn students participate in a 10-day journey to the civil-rights sites in the South where they meet leaders in the civil- rights movement.
Others also offered their takes on nonviolence.
Kayla Sabo, senior at Austintown Fitch High School, made her point about domestic violence by punching a balloon. “People suffer physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” she said. “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t change anything.”
She said 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic violence and 4 million men in the world will be assaulted. Witnesses to abuse, she said, must be strong individuals and “reach out and help.”
Not breaking the cycle of abuse perpetuates it in succeeding generations, she said. “Don’t become a statistic,” she said.
Youngstown Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st Ward, offered a message about a “mean mother,” who prepared wholesome meals, assigned household chores and kept tabs on where her children were and who they were with. The message noted how parents shape the future of their children.
Adrian Watson, YSU student, who offered a dramatic interpretation of “The City,” talked about bloodshed, gang-related deaths and the idea of wanting to change. He ended with the idea that the city “is in a state of opportunity” to end the violence.
Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde of Congregation Ohev Tzedek in Boardman said rally participants call God by many names but all “long to heal the fractures in the community, family and our own souls.” He said the “healing balm of nonviolence” and the “spirit of God” would help each person “to be the peace” that they pray for.
Students of Tracy Vivo, director of visual and performing arts at Chaney, performed two dances for peace.
Janae Ward, who participated in Sojourn in 2009 as a Chaney High student, asked the audience to call out names of those lost to violence. Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn, credited Ward with the idea for the parade and rally. Ward is a Youngstown State University student.
Warriors of Expression from Warriors Inc. also offered a presentation about nonviolence.
Pastor Jimmy Webb of Virginia, a participant in the Civil Rights movement, encouraged young people “to dream the impossible dream” and work toward a world of nonviolence. He said it was up to each person “to make a difference.”
Jeff Steinberg, director of Sojourn to the Past, said living a life of nonviolence is about “thinking differently.” He said because violence may touch everyone in some way, “this is about all of us.”
He applauded the leadership of Sojourn youth who are being active and assertive about a nonviolent world.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, who introduced the Nonviolence Wek in Ohio bill that has become law, said the legislation is meaningless unless Ohioans work to make nonviolence a reality. He said that goal requires “continuous action” from all, including the young leaders promoting nonviolence.